In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage - a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
. Starring: Justin Timberlake
, Olivia Wilde
, Shyloh Oostwald
, Johnny Galecki
, Colin McGurk
, Will Harris
, Michael William Freeman
, Jesse Lee Soffer
, Aaron Perilo
, Nick Lashaway
, Will Peltz
, Ray Santiago
, Matt Bomer
. Music by: Craig Armstrong
'In Time' was written, directed and produced by Andrew Niccol. Set in 2169, a genetically engineered populace can only live to age 25; beyond that they're given one year which will expire, unless time (which appears as a fluorescent counter on their forearms), is replenished. This gimmick of time for money, is perhaps the only real clever conceit of the film. I enjoyed watching how much a cup of coffee went for (a few minutes) as opposed to the price of a new car (such a purchase would put the purchaser back a good number of months).
Todd McCarthy writes in the Hollywood Reporter that the film suffers at the outset from a lack of a back story: "As cleverly conceived as it is, the time-for-money substitution leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Other than for Leon and a few flunkies, there are no authority figures visible or alluded to. Who runs the country, the city? Is the rest of the world like this? How did the aging process get halted? Given so remarkable an achievement, why are there no other comparable technological advances? Why are all the cars customized early 1960s Lincoln Continentals, Jags and Cadillacs?"
Justin Timberlake plays the protagonist, Will Salas, who lives in the economically depressed time zone, Dayton, where the population scrounges day to day, attempting to add precious minutes to their time clock, just to stay alive. The film's break into act two occurs when Salas meets up with a man, Hamilton, who's willing to give him a century of time for nothing in exchange. It's a scene which reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode, 'Long live Walter Jameson', where a man sips a magic motion two thousand years ago and discovers that he never ages. Unlike Twilight Zone, where the man is afraid to die, in this case, Hamilton is tired of living.
This leads to the melodramatic scene where Salas' mother (played by Olivia Wilder who is younger than Timberlake in real life) doesn't have enough time to get on a bus as the normal fare has been raised due to inflation. She's reduced to attempting to run home before the clock runs out but doesn't make it, falling into Will's arms, just as her counter lands on zero. It feels odd that she didn't prepare for this contingency but the whole idea is to emphasize the great divide between the haves and the haves-not. Salas blames the affluent who hoard time in the richest time zone, "New Greenwich," for his mother's death. The zone is run by a time hoarding mogul, Phillipe Weis, who is basically your stereotypical 'robber baron', a stock villain.
Salas' plan is to somehow institute his own brand of class warfare by getting his hands on Weis' 'eons' and redistribute it to the people. When he arrives in New Greenwich, Weis introduces him to his extended family. Nick Schager of Slant Magazine notes the problem in having everyone the same age in the film: " A bit more background on the origins of this genetics-predicated social structure would have better fleshed out his narrative, especially with regard to the confounding reality that-'since everyone is physically stuck at 25 years old, as epitomized by a hilariously creepy lineup of Philippe's mother-in-law, wife, and daughter-'people's romantic and sexual attractions to others must be hopelessly confused by the disconnect between their appearances and age."
In the second half, 'In Time' devolves into your basic crime caper flick replete with foot chases and car crashes. With Will now hooked up with Phillipe's daughter, Sylvia, the two play a futuristic Bonnie & Clyde attempting to elude both the police in the guise of Timekeeper Leon as well as the nasty 'Minuteman' gang member, Fortis. There's a very awkward and unconvincing scene toward the end where Will and Sylvia take Sylvia's father hostage and in the end, make good on their goal of grabbing his 1,000,000 years and redistributing all that time to the common people.
The worst part of 'In Time is the clumsy climax. Dana Stevens of Slate Magazine, sums it up best: "And though there's a vaguely socialist theme of wealth redistribution running through the film, it's never clear what the final goal is for the two time bandits in love: Are they looking to abolish the time-is-money system altogether, or just eke out a few more years for the downtrodden?"
Perhaps the most critical and perhaps enjoyable critique is from Kyle Smith in The NY Post. Part of his criticism involves the narrative's lack of verisimilitude: "Chunks of time (which look like Atari video- game cartridges from 1978 that have been dipped in aluminum) sit barely guarded in vaults that can be breached simply by driving a truck into them," as well as a lack of an explanation as to how Leon the Timekeeper is able to confiscate all of Will's time, when he has no evidence that he was guilty of stealing from the 105 year old man. Smith's main criticism comes back to the theme of class warfare: "The allegory nullifies itself in inviting comparison to reality. Life is more egalitarian than it is in this movie, because while rich people may have more toys, their wealth doesn't buy them the most precious resource. Warren Buffett won't outlive his secretary by centuries."
In the end this is a film that has a clever premise which will keep you watching pretty much to the end. Nonetheless, the plot is awkwardly constructed, leading to a climax which is hardly what I would call thrilling. The lack of thrills perhaps can be attributed to a lack of high stakes as Salas is merely redistributing the wealth and not saving the population from imminent annihilation.
Review by Turfseer from the Internet Movie Database.